Our Lady of the Wayside

Our Lady of the Wayside
Protect Expectant Mothers and Their Babies

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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Destitute in London

The phone was ringing: the call was for me. One of the women to whom we sent vouchers each week was ringing to say she had received her voucher for that week.It was, like all financial help we give, a subsistence amount enabling her to buy enough food, nappies etc for her children. It did not allow for the tinest luxury but she was grateful, as all the women to whom we send vouchers are, because without this help she and her children would literally starve.
Yes in London England we have women and young children who are totally destitute. They are people who, for whatever reason, reasons usually outside of their control, have no money and no home. The baby's father has usually abandoned them. This is the story one such woman told to me when I first saw her..
Elaine's husband had emigrated to England. Once he was established in a job and had a home he sent for his wife and 3 year old son to join him. The plan was that they both would work, the child would attend nursery and they would build up a prosperous life for themselves. However the plan went wrong as it so often does due to the failure of the artificial contraception they used. Elaine found she was pregnant. Her husband was very angry and told her to abort the baby. She refused, so he regularly beat and kicked her and told her he would get rid of the baby. He also brought another woman into their dwelling place and openly slept with this woman. Elaine fled with her son and relied on a friend to provide accomodation food and essentials for both of them. Her friend told her that she would be unable to accomodate her after the baby's birth.
She saw one of our leaflets which outlines the help we can give and made an appointment to be seen when she was about 35 weeks pregnant. On assessment her main needs were for accomodation and enough money to feed and clothe her family once her baby was born. She also needed baby clothes and equipment , most of which were given to her on that first visit. I also referred her to an organisation via which she could access free legal help so that she could regularise her situation.Her husband's solicitor had been doing this but she no longer had contact with her husband. She was asked to return a week or two later to be told the outcome of the assessment of need and to learn what help could be offered to her.She had been asked to bring with her, to this first first visit, means of identification , passport, Home Office documents, any proof she could provide regarding her financial situation etc. This type of information is used to help inform all assessments and aids the decision making process. but the priority of the organisation is to prevent abortion. This lady was strong enough to resist her husband's violent attempts to get her to abort their baby, because of that resistence she was now homeless and penniless.
She did not return as expected but rang a few days later to say she had gone in to labour and her baby girl was born a few weeks earlier than expected, but she was due to be discharged from hospital and had nowhere to stay . Following discussion at Good Counsel it was decided that we would provide short term housing, vouchers, friendship, and support. She returned to practice of her faith and her children were baptised. She was able to leave within a few months, having regularised her legal situation. She now has a home and an income. She no longer needs our practical help but she continues to access moral support and friendship by visiting the Sisters(who ran the house where she stayed) and attending some of our mother's meetings.
Ronni O'Gara

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